First Showdown Sends the Online World into Political Frenzy

Between the supporters, the challengers, the undecided and the unconcerned this political season, there is an overwhelming amount of conversation bombarding radios, television screens, news publications and social media pages everywhere.

The three presidential debates and the one between running mates will cover topics spanning the economy, foreign policy, healthcare, education, the role of government, immigration, etc. Talking points will undoubtedly be noted, as well as the candidates’ appeal. Body language that portrays arrogance, insincerity or uncertainty, everything from lip compression, rapid blinking, stammering and overall energy level, is calculated rather subconsciously by the public and affects their views in the midst of all the subjects covered. Back in the political season of 2008, discussions honing in on key issues caused millions to turn their attention to the candidates’ plan. The stakes were high as people wanted to know what candidates would do that was better than their opponent and what the difference in outcome would be from prior administrations. That intensity has re-emerged for 2012. Despite any snarky comments, jabs and sophisticated word choice, these debates are the time for political candidates to speak directly to the American people.

The CNN|ORC International Poll released on October 2nd showed 56% of likely voters expected Barack Obama to hit the ground running and win the debates. Tens of millions of people tuned into last night’s debate hosted at the University of Denver, moderated by PBS’s own Jim Lehrer. And this morning, the CNN|ORC Poll conducted right after the debate showed a remarkable 67% of watchers declaring Mitt Romney the winner of round one.

ORC’s Social Buzz data shows that conversation has gone up 47% for Romney and only 16% for Obama, which elevated Romney as not only the winner of the debate, but the frontrunner of stirring the online buzz in light of it. Over 4 million posts surrounded the debate itself. Around 8PM last night, the news networks got the conversation started, warming up for the 9PM face off. In comparison to the earlier hours in the day, social chatter stepped up. By 9PM conversation leveled out for each candidate but by 10PM, as the momentum rose, so did discussions and the tables turned to thousands more posts being about Romney rather than Obama.

A lot negative conversation surrounded the moderator, Jim Lehrer, with sentiments stemming from his seeming lack of control over the debate itself, with the interjections and timing on responses from the candidates. To stay clear of extrapolating from those findings, Social Buzz data was filtered to showcase how the online world reacted to Obama and Romney and just their sole performance at last night’s debate. What was found is very interesting. Online sentiment surrounding both candidates displays no significant sway towards favorability in the social universe as would be expected. Conversation has gone from 56% positive to 53% positive for Obama and 54% positive to 48% positive for Romney.









There are thousands of posts out there talking about the issues, fact checking the candidates, thousands making comments about body language and character. But the common denominator seems to be supporters of each are speaking out, loudly. The negativity bumps for both Romney and Obama have come significantly from attacks from the other side. Democratic and Republican voters are using their social media pages for virtual shouting. And this is only round one.










With the online noise level going from a doctor’s office to a high school lunch room, will the public sentiment be shifted? Future CNN|ORC Polls will certainly provide those answers based on likely voters following the debates. On one hand, many political strategists deem the debates as a candidate’s opportunity to really change the game. On the other hand, analysis has been done by political scientists on political campaigns between 1960 and 2000 which found that there is little shift in the election results that can be attributed directly to the outcomes of the debates themselves. But regardless of the school of thought subscribed to, the bottom line is, more than any other time in the campaigning season, voters are paying attention.

Tags: , , , , ,

Categories: Politics, Social Listening

Author:Tameka Vasquez

Tameka is the Marketing Communications Coordinator at ORC International. ORC International is a leading global market research firm. We specialize in research related to Customer Equity, Employee Engagement, Business & Market Expansion and Product Development & Innovation. Follow us on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook!


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